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8 Ways to Clean Up Messy Homework

Simple steps for stress free schoolwork.

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Attention and Focus
Reading Comprehension

1. Evaluate your child's work. Check his assignments before he turns them in, and have him recopy anything that is illegible. You could even come up with your own neatness grading system — but keep it lighthearted ("I give this one garbage truck — it's nice and clear! This one gets three trucks — it needs a little more work").

2. Understand the source. Is it only the math homework that's crowded with doodles and scribbles? Maybe your child doesn't grasp the concepts. Bone up on the basics so you can help her, and talk to her teacher about her struggles. She might benefit from a tutor or other homework helper.

3. Provide the proper tools. Often, messy homework assignments are a result of a lack of organization. Give your child the supplies he needs to stay organized and keep his homework neat. Try a three-ring binder with color-coded folders, one for each subject. If his favorite color is red, assign the red folder to his favorite subject. 

4. Clean up her work environment. The kitchen table usually isn't the optimal place for your child to work. Create an orderly workspace, complete with well-organized files, pens, pencils, and other supplies. 

5. Make lists. A disorganized child may find himself easily overwhelmed. To help him start his homework routine on the right foot, make a simple, clear list of the tasks that he needs to complete: take backpack to homework desk, have snack, feed pets, do math problems . . . and so on. 

6. Establish routines. Poor time management can lead to sloppy assignments too. Reserve a reliable chunk for homework every day. This time should be consistent, yet flexible. The flexibility will teach her to be realistic about time management as she gets older. 

7. Explain why. To your child, being neat may seem pointless. Spell it out for him: there is an association between messiness and grades. His teacher can't read his homework if it's covered in scribbles, eraser marks, and food spills. 

8. Allow for natural consequences. If your clean-it-up pleas and helpful hints are still falling on deaf ears, let your child experience whatever consequence her teacher dishes out: a lower grade, having to redo her work during recess, missing out on a special award. Sometimes this is the only message that sinks in.

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